30,000 Mile maintenance on 2012 Subaru Legacy 3.6R



The manual says to inspect most of the fluids. I have no idea how to do this, and local mechanics seem mostly confused by what inspect would mean - they offer to change the fluids, or say they probably don’t need to change the fluids, but so far none have offered to look at the fluids, sort of dodging my questions.

The Dealer says it should cost $600 to change oil, flush differential, transmission fluids and other such things. They say it’s extra to the 30k service to change the brake fluid but offered to do that as well.

A local mechanic I like says I should change the anti-freeze and brake fluid, and maybe other stuff after seeing what needs to be replaced.

My family members say there is no maintenance interval on fluids except for engine oil - brake fluid is changed when you need new brakes, and the rest is changed if you have transmission issues - so they feel I shouldn’t need anything done.

I have NO driveability issues. The car runs great. The brakes were checked 3k ago at the last oil change and were ok. When the manual has an “I” for inspect in every column for 30k - what should be done? Anything? I’m not afraid to spend money, but I don’t want to blow $800 for no reason around Christmas time either.


I should mention, I don’t think the dealer is overcharging for the number of fluids they would flush, I just question if it’s necessary to flush the fluids at 30k.


Most cars have a method of checking fluid levels, and these same methods are used to inspect the general condition of the fluids. For example, the motor oil has a dipstick, and you can inspect the general condition of the oil from a sample on that stick. Same for automatic transmission fluid, unless Subaru uses a sealed transmission. A manual transmission and differentials are checked with a fill hole on the side of the case that is also used to determine fluid level. Coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid are in opaque reservoirs with minimum and maximum limits shown on the side. Conditions of these fluids are checked by visual inspection. With visual inspections, you’re looking for evidence of contamination, excessive wear or burnt fluids, and especially metal flakes, indicating mechanicl problems.

Follow the maintenance schedule on changing the fluids. Changing them early cannot hurt anything but your wallet. The advice about no change intrrvals for other fluids unless thete is a problem is dead wrong. Automatic transmissions, manual transmissions, and differentials need to be serviced a miminum of 60,000 miles unless the maintenance schedule calls for more frequent. Brake fluid should be changed every 3 years. Coolant every 5 minimum.


The “I” to inspect the fluid, simply means to check of the level of the fluid - not change it or flush it. Checking the oil is easy. Checking the coolant level is a look at the overflow tank when the car is cool and add 50/50 mix if needed. Checking differential and manual transmission mean putting the car on a lift taking out a plug in the side of the case and adding the correct fluid until the fluid drips out of the hole. Brake fluid is something you change every 3 years regardless of miles on a car with traction control and ABS. On a 30K car that is one to 2 years old you don’t need to do anything with the brake fluid and the other inspections should be cheap.

You don’t need to spend $600. If the car has an automatic transmission it could be a wise move to change that fluid. But, make sure it is the correct fluid, a CVT auto transmission takes a completely different fluid than a conventional auto transmission. It is a common mistake to use the wrong fluid and the result is a severely damaged transmission. For this reason I’d prefer having a Subaru dealer change the auto trans fluid just to avoid this type of major error. Some Subaru’s have a CVT transmission and others don’t in that model year - so an error is possible and needs to be avoided.


I have a 2011 Outback 3.6R, which is mechanically identical to your Legacy, so I will give you both my experience and my advice on this topic.

In an effort to make their vehicles appear to be almost maintenance-free, all car mfrs are in a race to see who can list the least required maintenance in their maintenance schedules. And, for the car owner who sells or trades in his vehicle every 3 or 4 years, these bare-bones, extremely minimal maintenance schedules, will probably not present a problem.

However, for the car owner who intends to keep his vehicle for the long term, and for the vehicle owner who wants flawless performance, it is important to go beyond the ridiculously minimal maintenance requirements that all car mfrs list nowadays.

When I had the 30k service done on my Outback, here is what I had done:
Change oil
Rotate tires
Change air filter
Change brake fluid
Change trans fluid
Change fluid in both differentials

While the “standard” 30k service at the dealership includes changing the cabin air filter, I declined that service as I do that myself every year.

One glaring error in your post is the belief that the brake fluid flush/change is not a required part of Subaru’s maintenance schedule at 30k miles. In reality, it is listed with an “R”, meaning, “replace”, just like the engine air filter. Because brake fluid is hygroscopic (meaning that it absorbs water from the atmosphere), it is very important to change brake fluid on the specified schedule.

In theory, the dealer charged $597 for the services listed above, along with a bunch of “inspections”. In reality, as a result of the dealership’s Senior Citizen discount, plus my use of $500 worth of “Subaru Bucks”, I paid a grand total of $13.12 (including sales tax) for this major service. (I asked the service manager if I held the record for the lowest payment for major services, and he informed me that I did not. He said that another customer had bought tires from them at the time of his 60k service, and that this customer produced enough Subaru Bucks to pay less than $5.00 for that major service and 4 tires.)

If you don’t currently have the Subaru MasterCard (administered by Chase bank), you really should get it, as it pays a 3% rebate on everything that you charge to the card. Every time that you reach the $3,000 plateau of charges, Chase sends you a $100 voucher, which is called a Subaru Buck. These certificates have an expiration date at least 3 years in the future, so you can accumulate them without much fear of them expiring.

I accumulate these certificates, and use them for parts and service, and for my next car purchase. Even though I used $500 worth of those certificates a few months ago for the 30k service, I already have an additional $700 of them stockpiled, so that I will have an equally low cost for my 60k, 90k, & 120k services, and then I can use whatever I have left for my next car purchase. Typically, when I buy a Subaru, I present anywhere from $700 to $1,000 worth of these certificates after I have negotiated my best price, thus getting a very nice discount on the purchase price.

And, please don’t listen to your family members, whose advice (at least on things automotive in nature) is very badly flawed. If you wait until you have transmission problems before you change the fluid, you will very likely not be able to cure those trans problems.

Instead, if you change the trans fluid every 3 yrs/30k miles, you can help to prevent transmission problems. This is the plan that I have followed with all of my cars over the years (including two previous Subarus), and I have never had transmission problems. By contrast, some of my friends (who have beliefs similar to your relatives) have had to overhaul/replace their transmissions at 90k-110k miles. The old saying… “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”…is very apt when it comes to the very complex device known as an automotive transmission.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me.
And, I urge you to get that Subaru MasterCard, as you will be able to have your maintenance done at the dealership (with genuine Subaru fluids) for ridiculously low prices if you get that card and use it for virtually every purchase, as I do.